NORTHUMBRIAN forester Dave Allen’s name is up in lights at one of London’s most popular visitor attractions.
The Christmas tree that Dave helped find in Kielder Forest for the capital’s Somerset House has now been named after him.
Dave The Tree now stands proudly overlooking the skating rink at the famous arts and cultural centre off The Strand.
Back home in Bellingham, Northumberland, modest Dave said: “It’s a nice gesture – and a lovely bit of fun. But it was all part of the service, and the important thing is that we’ve provided them with what they wanted.”
What Somerset House wanted was a perfectly-shaped tree standing exactly 40ft tall.
And when Christmas Tree curator Stephen Doherty travelled north to join the quest, it was Dave who drove to Newcastle to collect him from the train, take him to Kielder, drive round the forest for several hours, then get him back to Newcastle with 10 minutes to spare for the train home.
Mr Doherty said: “Because of all that he did, we have named the tree in honour of the man who took me around and helped me find it.
“Dave The Tree is now standing tall and proud, overlooking the ice-rink, decorated with Valentino red bows to signify the exhibition we have on at the moment relating to the couture fashion designer.
“It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it really is meant with sincerity and good wishes.”
Farmer Dave, a Bellingham parish councillor, did the good deed on behalf of Norfolk-based Elvedon Trees, who took the order from Somerset House.
He said: “It’s simply about taking care of a client. This was the first time Somerset House had selected their own tree and their specification was for a 40ft tree.
“The bulk of commercial timber is grown very close together but is useless for Christmas trees.
“So we look for clearings, perhaps using Google Earth, and then it’s a question of driving and walking – the best Christmas trees are never next to the road. The trees are usually seen in the round when on show, so we have to find the perfect shape too. It took a bit of finding, but we got exactly the right tree in the end.”
Mr Doherty said: “We took a good number of hours to find it but finally there it was, right at the end of a track.
“It hasn’t to be an inch more than 40ft, because it would not get through the tight arches of Somerset House. And if it was an inch less than 40ft, some people would be unhappy.
“So to get it absolutely right, I was asked to take the train to Newcastle where I would be picked up by Dave in a purple Isuzu Trooper.
“Dave was there right on time, drove me the hour-and-a-half to Kielder, found me some welly-boots – which were very welcome – and drove round the roads and bumpy, bumpy tracks of the forest.
“When we finally found the right tree, it was partly screened by a silver birch, but on close examination it was exactly right. It was absolutely worth every bit of effort to get it, and now it is in front of Somerset House, looking glorious.
“After all of that, Dave drove me back to Newcastle – I did get a glimpse of Kielder Reservoir on the way – and I caught the return train to King’s Cross with 10 minutes to spare!
“And after what was my first-ever visit to Kielder, I have to say that it is possibly the nicest place I’ve ever visited in England.
“I live near the Sussex Downs, which I love, but I have come back telling everybody how wonderful Northumberland is.”